"You have a shield. Use it!" Morrison's eyes were fixed on Karl as he fought against Graham. Graham had the upper hand as he was already an experienced soldier. Karl didn't have an easy time trying to dodge or block the oncoming blows.
Small John couldn't blame him not wanting to get hit. He was still nursing his own aching shoulder after having taken a beating from Hugh, another trained soldier. Unlike Karl, he had made use of his shield, but Hugh's blows were so hard that his arm was still numb. Karl probably didn't want to end up the same way.
"That's enough." Morrison stepped between the two fighters. He stepped up to Karl and grabbed the rim of his shield and tugged it upward into the right position. "Hold it like this. If an Orc tries to hit you, block it. You'll live longer."
With a slap on the shoulder Morrison sent Karl back into the ranks. "Graham, well done. If you still got some fight in you, I've got someone who needs another round." His eyes wandered across the new recruits and settled on Small John.
He had to be kidding. Small John was sick and tired of being beaten. He wanted to learn and get better. He wanted to become one of the best who could fight several Orcs at once, but that future looked dim. He felt weak and small compared to the soldier's like Hugh, who still had a big grin plastered on his face. He didn't move from the ranks.
"John, you don't want to train?" The Guardian's jaw clenched as he ground his teeth. "Well, that's too bad, because the Orcs are coming, if you want them to or not. So get up here and fight! You still have a lot to learn and Graham's going to teach you."
Small John suppressed an indignant sigh and tried not to wince as he rolled his shoulders. No reason to show them more weakness. He picked up his practice sword and shield, then went to face Graham. The soldier was smiling. Unlike Hugh's, it looked like a genuine friendly smile.
"You're tired. Let's pretend you're in a battle. You've survived several clashes, but now you're losing strength. You might lose your life, but for now you still have to fight." Graham dropped his shield to the ground and looked toward Morrison. The Guardian nodded. "Come on, drop it. You'll have less protection, but more energy to wield your sword. What's the use in battering your shield anyway? We already saw earlier that you can use it."
Was that a complement? Small John dropped his own shield and tightened his grip on the sword. Graham slashed the air diagonally in front of him. "I'm going to attack you like this. One stroke to your left followed by one to your right. Parry them."
Small John let out a deep breath. He had expected Graham to just come at him the way Hugh had done, but he was actually taking time to teach him something. Morrison had turned his back to them and was talking to Karl. The pressure of the Guardian watching faded and he tried to prepare.
When the first blow came Small John lifted his sword and stumbled backward from the impact. He kept his sword up and dug in his heels to prepare for the second attack. Graham swung his blade at his right, but not the way he had shown. His blow didn't connect with Small John's block, it came from the side and hammered into his ribs.
Small John doubled over and gasped in pain. He was down on one knee, holding his side. What was that for? He tried to catch his breath. "I thought you were going to swing diagonally."
Graham held out a hand. "I also told you to parry and not to hold up your sword to block the blow you knew was coming. You need to learn to trust your instincts and act upon what you see and not what you are told. An Orc would have taken the chance just like I did, but he would have hit a lot harder."
Small John grasped the offered hand and was pulled back onto his feet. "An Orc wouldn't have told me how he would attack."
"True, but you need to learn what to expect in battle, not what to expect int the training yard." Graham took a few steps back and went into a defensive stance. "Now you're also going to have to work on your footing. My first strike almost knocked you down. That can't happen in battle or you're dead. Attack me the way I attacked you and you'll see what I mean."
"Alright." Small John shook his shoulders to loosen them up and suppressed the ache in his ribs. He strode toward the soldier and swung his sword diagonally at Graham's left. It was blocked. He didn't even budge.
Small John could still feel his arm shaking from the clash of steel, but he drew his sword back and attacked Graham's side horizontally, the way he had done to Small John. Graham easily blocked the blade and took a side step, his own sword swinging at Small John's head. It was more instinct than anything else that allowed him to stop the oncoming blow. He was breathing hard, waiting for the next attack to come, but Graham had already taken a step back.
"Good job. Lesson learned." Graham looked to Morrison, who had stopped training Karl and had watched the whole fight.
Morrison's brooding stare was focused on him. The corners of his lips slid upward in a hint of a smile. "Yes, good job. Now do it again."